Camillo, in her debut memoir, recalls competing with an adopted stray dog for her husband’s affection.
When Camillo’s son Adrian brought home a dirty, injured little white dog he’d found in a box, she thought the best thing for the animal was to be put down. Indeed, when they took her to the vet, they discovered she had an infection, broken bones that had healed badly and backed-up intestines. However, they decided to give the dog a chance, and she slowly began to improve. By then, almost everyone in the family was taken with the dog, whom they named Judy, adding her to their home menagerie that already included four cats and two turtles. Camillo, who describes herself as “perched on the top rung of the ladder” of importance in her family, found herself getting edged out of that position by Judy, at least in the eyes of her husband, Sandro, who formed an unusually close bond with the dog. He referred to Judy as his “girlfriend” and called her “my love” and “gorgeous”; eventually, even Camillo referred to the two of them as “the couple.” She tried to comprehend these events while dealing with a demanding acting career, her own chronic migraines, and the medical complications of both Judy, whose injuries never fully healed, and Sandro, whose multiple heart attacks weren’t helped by his smoking and drinking. Throughout, Camillo’s wry, self-deprecating humor maintains a light tone, but even the most amenable readers will be exasperated at times, as when, for instance, Sandro told his first granddaughter, “[I]t’s Judy who’s the love of my life…remember that. You come second-best though.” Readers may wonder why Camillo seemed accepting of a situation with which she was dissatisfied: “I have to be open-minded otherwise, in no time, I’ll find myself kicked out of the castle, won’t I?” The story takes place in Rome, and Camillo’s descriptions of the Italian landscape and the quirks of her family, friends and neighbors help develop a strong sense of place. Still, the story’s focus is her rather bizarre home situation, and the many allusions to Sandro’s amorous relationship with Judy will likely hit a saturation point with all but the most ardent of animal lovers.
Overboard pet love dampens the quirkiness of this otherwise amusing memoir.